Home > The Darkest Hour (KGI #1)(9)

The Darkest Hour (KGI #1)(9)
Author: Maya Banks

He was big and menacing, his features drawn and made ghoulish by the fire and smoke and more sunlight than she’d seen in days. His rifle swept the room before he focused all his attention on her.

Oh God, he was going to kill her. The day had finally come. The one they had taunted her with.

She whimpered deep in her throat and wrapped her arms protectively around herself.

“Jesus,” the man swore. “Rachel, honey, we’ve come to help you. Everything’s going to be okay.”

She flinched. They had never used her name. In her darker moments, she wondered if she had made the name up.

The man turned his head sideways and spoke into some kind of a receiver he was wearing. “I’ve got her. Hut three. North. We’ll need cover.”

He looked back at her and started forward.

She threw her arms over her head and shrank as small as she could. She closed her eyes so she couldn’t see what was to come.

Above her the man swore softly, but he stopped. She could no longer hear him move. She chanced a peek from under her arms and saw him standing sideways to the door. He was looking out, his profile illuminated by fire.

A few seconds later, another man burst through the door, a gun cradled in his arms. His gaze settled immediately on her.

The second man ripped off his helmet, and her mouth dropped open in shock. She knew this man. She’d seen him so many times in her mind. But he wasn’t real, was he?

He knelt cautiously in front of her and extended his hand. “Rachel, it’s me, Ethan. I’ve come to take you home.”

He knew her name. Her guardian angel knew her name. She began to shake harder, her teeth chattering loudly in her head. Pain gnawed incessantly at her. She needed her medicine.

“Medicine,” she croaked out. It hurt to speak. She hadn’t spoken aloud in a long time. “I need my medicine.”

Ethan frowned and looked back at the other man. Then he reached out and gently took her arm. The first man moved from the doorway so that the light shone more fully in, and she flinched away from the glare. Ethan turned her wrist over until the inside of her arm was exposed.

He let out a hiss of anger.

She yanked her arm away and shrank from the power emanating from him.

“Shit, Sam,” Ethan murmured.

The man he called Sam echoed the curse and then jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “We have to move. Now. It’s three miles back to the chopper and we’re still taking fire from all sides.”

She stared between the two men, mystified by what was transpiring. Where were they taking her?

Ethan touched her cheek and then scrambled up, pulling her with him. Pain wracked her body and she was bathed in heavy sweat. Yet she’d never felt so cold in her entire life.

“Trust me, baby,” Ethan said softly. “I’m going to get you out of here, but I need you to do as I say.”

She barely had time to nod before he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. He fumbled with his rifle with his free hand and then charged out the door behind Sam.

The ground spun dizzily underneath her and his shoulder dug painfully into her belly until bile rose and ate at her throat. Around her the world had gone mad. Fire blazed a path across the village and beyond. Gunfire peppered the ground and trees around her, and she was sure she would die. Now, when rescue was imminent, it would all be for nothing. They would never let her go. They’d told her as much.

Suddenly she went flying through the air. Her back hit the ground with such force that all the air was forced out of her lungs. She lay there, one muscled arm banded tight around her waist as she tried to breathe. Pain, so constant, exploded in her head until dark spots danced in her vision.

She tried to turn when the nausea finally overwhelmed her, but she was trapped. Panicked, she kicked and flailed but his grip only tightened on her.

“Shhh, baby. I’m here. It’s okay.”

His voice comforted her, and she stilled beneath him. Ethan pulled her to her feet, and she blinked as she adjusted to the constant stream of sunlight.

As suddenly as he hauled her up, he shoved her back down, covering her head with his big arms.

“Son of a bitch! Where’s the cover?”

Ethan lay there, sprawled over Rachel as he quickly scanned the area. Goddamn it, Sam was pinned down several yards away. Ethan looked again in the direction he knew P.J. to be and where Garrett and Donovan would be rendezvousing.

He couldn’t leave Sam, but he had to protect Rachel. Hell of a choice. His brother or his wife.

He pushed Rachel’s hair from her face and took in the stark terror in her eyes.

“Listen to me, Rachel. I need you to do exactly as I tell you. See that slight path into the jungle?”

He pointed and waited for her to turn her head. When he was satisfied she was locked on, he motioned again.

“When I say go, I want you to run like hell. Straight down that path. Get into the jungle and hide. I have people there. They’ll find you.”

She stared at him in horror, and he wondered if she’d even absorbed his directions.

“Come on, Rachel, say something. Tell me you understand. I have to help Sam.”

Slowly she nodded. He let go of her and she scrambled to her knees, looking warily at her surroundings.

Ethan pulled the mic to his mouth. “I need cover. Sam’s in trouble. I’m sending Rachel to you, P.J.”

In response, a heavy line of fire peppered the area beyond Ethan. He shoved Rachel forward. “Go! Run!”

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